The Squid's Ear
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Irene Schweizer / Joey Baron : Live! (Intakt)

Two generations and two masters of monumental free improvisation from Europe and New York joined together at the unerhort!-Festival Rote Fabrik Zurich in 2015 to unleash this technically awesome and ebullient and duo in a fantastic concert of dynamic power, lyrical insight, intense rhythmic support and counterpoint, and profound musical ideas; incredible! ... Click to View


Die Enttauschung (Axel Dorner / Michael Griener / Rudi Mahall / Jan Roder): Lavaman (Intakt)

The remarkable European Free Jazz quintet Die Enttauschung, crossing bop forms with modern creative approaches to jazz for over 20 years, take a new drummer--Michael Griener--and adds trombonist Christof Thewes, to join Rudi Mahall on clarinets, Axel Dorner on trumpet, and Jan Roder on bass, for an exciting and upbeat album of succint tunes that both revere and abuse jazz history in wonderful ways. ... Click to View


Trio Heinz Herbert (w/ Dominic Landolt / Ramon Landolt / Mario Haenni): The Willisau Concert (Live) (Intakt)

Textural improv of improbable grooves and tones driven by intense periods of interaction balanced with spatial sonic environments; adventurous and exuberant dialog caught live at the Jazzfestival Willisau, in Switzerland, 2016 from the trio of Dominic Landolt on guitar, Ramon Landolt on Hammond organ, synthesizer & samples and Mario Haenni on drums. ... Click to View


Aruan Ortiz : Cub(an)ism (Intakt)

Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz explores a range of musical idioms and styles, drawing on experiences from many phases of Ortiz' life in Cuba, Spain, France and the US, exploring cubist principles, faceting, and multiple perspectives with folkloric elements, as he presents 10 original compositions of passionate and playful music, performed with virtuosic skill. ... Click to View


Aki Takase / Paul Ayumi : Hotel Zauberberg (Intakt)

Pianist Aki Takase and voilinist Ayumi Paul's 1st collaboration is an 18 movement suite for violin and piano blending composition and improvisation, with 11 movements from Takase and 5 written with Paul, plus Mozart's "K. 1 minuet in G major" and the Preludio movement from Bach's solo violin partita in E major; an absorbing set of recordings inspired by the writings of Thomas Mann. ... Click to View


Hans Hassler: Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her (Intakt)

Swiss accordionist Hans Hassler stands above the (small) crowd of improvising accordionist in the breadth of his career, his ability to balance both lyrical, abstract, serious, and humorous aspects in his approach the instrument, a true original in intent and ability to engage his listeners, in 15 original and diverse compositions recorded in 2017. ... Click to View


Pan-Scan Ensemble: Air And Light And Time And Space (PNL)

"Pan-Scan" refers to pan-Scandinavian, and the nine players on this thrilling and joyful recordings are all of that origin, performing live at Blow Out in Mir, Oslo, Norway in 2016, including both Lotte Anker and Ann HOgberg on sax, Thomas Johansson, Emil Stranberg and Goran Kajfes on trumpet, Sten Sandell on piano, and Paal Nilssen-Love and Stale Liavik on drums. ... Click to View


Xavier Charles / Michel F Cote / Franz Hautzinger / Philippe Lauzier / Eric Normand: Torche! (Tour de Bras)

An exceptional free improvising quintet of Montreal & Quebec improvisers--bassist Eric Normand, drummer Michel F. Cote, and bass clarinetist Philippe Lauzier--with French clarinetist Xavier Charles and German trumpeter Franz Hautzinger, performing live during the 2016 Festival de Musique de Creation, creating fascinating commontion with incredible restraint. ... Click to View


Fraufraulein: Heavy Objects [CASSETTE] (Marginal Frequency)

The duo of Brooklyn electronics, field recording, bass guitar and french horn artists Billy Gomberg and Anne Guthrie, using musical and abstract sounds to create something between the concrete textures of field recording and spontaneous composition, presenting restrained yet detailed sound that engages the listener through transition and mystery. ... Click to View


Joda Clement / Mathieu Ruhlmann: Kindred (Marginal Frequency)

A unique cover of Brian Eno's "Taking Tiger Mountain" using synthesizer, field recordings, electromagnetic feedback, treatments, objects, oscillators, shruti box, reel to reel, ukelin, guitar, piano, clarinet, cello and voice, from Joda Clement and Mathieu Ruhlmann joined by Cristian Alvear, Gregory Moskos, Alexandra Spence, Tim Clement, Judith Hamann and A.F. Jones. ... Click to View


Mars Williams presents (w/ Berman / Lonberg-Holdm / Baker / Kessler / Sandstrom / Hunt): An Ayler Xmas: The Music of Albert Ayler & Songs of Christmas (Soul What Records)

Chicago saxophonist Mars Williams directs his Albert Ayler tribute band, Witches and Devils, to merge Ayler-esque compositions with Christmas songs, performed by Josh Berman (cornet) Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Jim Baker (keys, viola), Kent Kessler (bass), Brian Sandstrom (bass, guitar, trumpet); an unexpected and welcome present for your free jazz festivities! ... Click to View


Boneshaker (Mars Williams / Paal Nilssen-Love / Kent Kessler): Unusual Words (Soul What Records)

A CD intended to sell at concerts from Mars Williams' own Soul What Records label, a studio recording in 2012 from the powerhouse trio of Chicago multi-reedist Mars Williams, in-demand Norwegian drummer/percussionist Paal Nilssen-Love, and Chicago bassist Kent Kessler, running the gamut from furious blowing to introspective interaction. ... Click to View


Elliott Sharp / Mary Halvorson / Marc Ribot: ERR Guitar (Intakt)

Elliott Sharp's New York Studio zOaR was the meeting place for three New York guitarists--Sharp himself, Mary Halvorson, and Marc Ribot--who find common ground by blending a variety of approaches to the instrument in 12 excellent and generally succinct collective improvisations, stretching, bending, plucking and inexplicably effecting their guitars. ... Click to View


John Cage: Klang der Wandlungen [3 CDs] (Edition Rz)

An impressive triple-CD box with recordings of some late works by John Cage, including "Seventy-Four for Orchestra, 1992", "103 for Orchestra, 1991, part 1 & 2", In a Landscape fur Harfe", "Postcard From Heaven fur Eine Bis Zwanzig Harfen", and some of "The Harmony of Maine"; including a 32 page booklet with photos and liner notes by Jakob Ullmann. ... Click to View


Jurg Frey: L'ame Est Sans Retenue I [5 CDs] (erstwhile)

A massive work from composer Jurg Frey focused on the dynamic relationship between sound and silence, and how it can affect our perception of the silence in a frame of space and time, using environmental sounds of field recordings and silence to create a massive work over six hours, modifying pitch, rhythm, dynamics, texture, and overtone, here properly released on 5 CDs. ... Click to View


Michael Pisaro / Samuel Dunscombe / Steven Andrew Flato / Wen Liu / Celeste Oram / Johannes Regnier: Organ For The Senses (Marginal Frequency)

San Diego's Parkeology director Kate Clark and composer Samuel Dunscombe organized this concert to take advantage of the Balboa Park's Spreckels Organ, inviting local and regional experimental composers to develop works for the 5,017 pipe instrument, attracting artists like Michael Pisaro, Samuel Dunscombe, Steven Andrew Flato, Wen Liu, &c. ... Click to View


Jon Irabagon / Joe Fiedler / Todd Neufeld: In Formation Network (Nuscope)

Saxophonist Jon Irabagon, trombonist Joe Fiedler, and guitarist Todd Neufeld met in April, 2017 in Mount Vernon at the Oktaven Audio studio to record these nine varied compositions, presenting a unifying trio sound and identity that reflects Chicago's Giuffre trio, but with a unique collective attitude as the trio employs a varied set of compositional strategies. ... Click to View


Joe McPhee: The Willisau Concert (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Recorded in 1975 at the Swiss Willisau Jazz Festival, Joe McPhee's trio with John Synder on synth and Makaya Ntshoko on drums, and McPhee on tenor and sopranox sax, was Hat Hut's 2nd release and has been out of print since; Corbett vs. Dempsey asked McPhee what unavailable album he'd like to see in print, and this suberb album was his first choice. ... Click to View


Eugene Chadbourne : The Lost Eddie Chatterbox Session [2017 REISSUE] (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

Reissuing free improvising guitarist Eugene Chadbourne's 1977, San Francisco recording of compositions by the likes of Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, and Ornette Coleman, plus a few standards and originals, captured on an ailing quarter-track tape deck, but saved for the force of his playing, here restored, corrected, and remastered. ... Click to View


Sun Ra: Discipline 27-II [2017 REMASTER] (Corbett vs. Dempsey)

The 2nd volume in Sun Ra's "Discipline" series was recorded during the same sessions as 1972's Impulse release "Space Is the Place", with Sun Ra on electronic keyboards and Moog, and a large band including Marshall Allen, John Gilmore, Danny Davis, Akh Tal Ebah, June Tyson, &c. ... Click to View


Leap of Faith Orchestra: The Expanding Universe (Evil Clown)

The Leap of Faith Orchestra is a large improvisation ensemble comprised of 5 ub-units--Leap of Faith, Metal Chaos Ensemble, String Theory, Turbulence, and the New Language Collaborative--all assembled here for a massive and far-ranging experience, scored with time indices and English language descriptions by leader David Peck; dense and spectacular. ... Click to View


Lisbon String Trio with Luiz Rocha: Akuanduba (Creative Sources)

The 4th collaboration for Portugal's Lisbon String Trio of Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Alvaro Rosso on double bass, with Brazilian clarinetist based in Barcelona Luiz Rocha, all captured live at Casa dos Bicos, Fundacao Jose Saramago, in Lisbon in 2017 for free improvisation that maintains a calm center amidst seething and commanding playing. ... Click to View


Lisbon String Trio with Etienne Brunet: Telepathie (Creative Sources)

Portugal's Lisbon String Trio with Ernesto Rodrigues on viola, Miguel Mira on cello, and Alvaro Rosso on double bass, in a series of releases adding one additional improviser, here joined by Etienne Brunet on soprano saxophone, for two extended improvisations of active counterpoint and beautiful open sections, an excellent and rousing collaboration. ... Click to View


Un Coup de Des (Barriere / Sainz): Volcan Evaporado (Creative Sources)

Two women in a duo of voice and amplified objects, Lali Barrier using a variety of devices that are clearly micro-amplifed and mixed in performance, as Marta Sainz intones vocal sounds, never speaking but creating innuendo and drama at a cautious pace, allowing Barrier's objects to interact, creating an unusual sonic environment of unpredictable and interesting discourse. ... Click to View


Steve Roden : Between Yellow And White On One Side. Between Blue And Black On The Other (Banned Productions)

Part of a trilogy of cassette-related works that began with a piece sound artist Steve Roden created for an online exhibition for ICA London in early 2012, these two works were composed from 1983-84 recordings Roden made in his bedroom, recorded at double speed and here playing at half speed, half in reverse, which were organized into these two compositions. ... Click to View


Kullhammar, Aalberg Zetterber & Santos Silva: Basement Sessions Vol.4 (The Bali Tapes) (Clean Feed)

The 4th volumes of this remarkable set of "basement sessions" from the Swedish trio of Espen Aalberg on drums & percussion, Jonas Kullhammar on saxophone & flute, and Torbjorn Zetterberg on bass, joined by Susana Santos Silva on trumpet, for a beautiful album of free hard bop, encompassing spiritual and ritual aspects of gamelan music in a unique and wonderful album. ... Click to View


Imaginary Numbers (McPhee / Niggenkemper / Solberg): Imaginary Numbers (Clean Feed)

Playing both pocket trumpet and tenor sax, Joe McPhee joins German/French/NY bassist Pascal Niggenkemper, and Norwegian drummer Stale Liavik Solberg, for an authoritative and bold album of collective free improv, three extended conversations that center on "A Supreme Love (For John Coltrane)", pointing to the history and sympathies of these impressive musicians. ... Click to View


Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity : Live in Europe [3 CDs] (Clean Feed)

Three complete 2016 concerts at North Sea Jazz Festival, Ljubljana Jazz Festival and Oslo Jazz Festiva, and 3 CDs to present them, from drummer Gard Nilssen's Acoustic Unity, a superb free/post-bop group with a core of Nilssen, bassist Petter Eldh, and saxophonist Andre Roligheten, featuring 3 saxophonists: Fredrik Ljungkvis, Kristoffer Berre Alberts, and Jorgen Mathisen. ... Click to View


Tree Ear (Strinning / Troller / Hemingway): Witches Butter (Clean Feed)

After percussionist and composer Gerry Hemingway migrated to Luzern, Switzerland he joined forces with the creative improvising community in that city, in particular with guitarist Manuel Troller and saxophonist and bass clarinetist Sebastian Strinning, the trio taking the name Tree Ear, blending free and idiomatic improv in bold, uncommon and spellbinding ways. ... Click to View


Eve Risser / Kaja Draksler: To Pianos (Clean Feed)

Two pianists dedicate to their instruments at the Gallus Hall of Cankarjev Dom during the 57th Jazz Festival Ljubljana: Paris-based pianist Eve Risser (Umlaut, En-Corps, &c) and Slovenian pianist Kaja Draskler (I/O, Draskler Octet, &c.), to record these inventive duos, weaving their keys together or working inside and out of the piano in incredible sonic approaches. ... Click to View


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The Squid's Ear
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The Bottom Shelf is where artists keep the records in their collections that they might not want you to see. Revealing early influences, unusual appetites or just guilty pleasures, we offer a peek at the shelves of some of our favorite musicians.


  Our Own Bottom Shelves  

Over the last year, we've asked musicians Ron Anderson, Anthony Coleman and Gary Lucas to come clean about their private predilections, to reveal for our readers the records they might try to hide when company comes over. For The Squid's Ear's First Or So Anniversary issue, publisher Phil Zampino and editor Kurt Gottschalk belly up to the bar, revealing some of the deep embarrassment of questionable riches in their own collections.



Phil Zampino's Bottom Shelf  

I take a lot of grief from certain friends regarding my love of progressive chestnuts like Van Der Graaf Generator, Gong, Jethro Tull and (early) Genesis.  Certain time-bound predilections simply refuse to fade. But last summer I revisited something from the beginning of my listening days: Steppenwolf, in particular, the Live album.  Anyone who gives me grief for this one needs to be ready for an earful.

I re-approached Steppenwolf Live with great trepidation.  This album sat alongside Iron Butterfly's In a Gadda Da Vida in my early listening habits.  Persistent memory dictates that it can't be uncoupled from visions of a spastic me, flailing around the living room and enthusing about how "cool" this music was.  At the age of 8 I really didn't understand anything clearly about the political and world crises of the day.  I knew there was unrest and criticism.  Steppenwolf became an unfocused focal point of that turbulent era for me.  I know as a child that I thought the song "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam" actually had to do with "Keep Off the Grass" signs, and how oppressive our government was for forcing us onto the path.  I didn't get any of the cocaine or sex references.  Hey, I was a kid!

The gatefold copy with the big Wolf's head on the cover that impressed me so belonged to my older brother.  I think in the end I listened to it as much as he did, and maybe a bit more.  I don't still listen to his Kiss albums.  But when Steppenwolf crept back into my head I at last bought my own copy on cd, of course, a tiny booklet with a picture that couldn't rival the power of that 12" wolf's head threatening you from the gatefold.  And I gave it a spin.

In reflection perhaps I just filed the memory of this album away until I needed it.  Maybe I knew that I shouldn't be burnt out on it when the message applied again.  Steppenwolf's songs express outrage and criticism of government practices that apply to our current situation.  Along with, of course, a lot of '60s 'turn on tune in, smokin' the grass' sentiment.  It talks about the war on drugs (Don't Step on the Grass, Sam, criticizes the using community at the same time (The Pusher) and, boldest of all, it takes on the government (Monster) with commentary that's clear and direct and every bit as vital today as it was then.  Between songs John Kay talk about working together with the government to preserve what's good in our great land.  It's uplifting, patriotic and challenging to the status quo all at the same time, while extolling the virtues of sex and pills and having a good old Magic Carpet Ride.  And it played on FM before Clear Channel owned the air.

Sadly Steppenwolf made a deliberate decision to shift away from their characteristic culturally charged spiel late in their career, a decision that resulted in some decent records that don't distinguish themselves from other rock blands of the time.  To these ears the music already sounds a bit out of step with the ever-changing rock scene they once carried such a strong voice in. Steppenwolf has remained a surprisingly tenacious band, and in their current incarnation they have a stiff schedule of biker shows, city fests and casino's planned for 2004.  I don't know if they still play Monster, but their message has never had a more appropriate time.  That it's not in heavy rotation on every classic rock radio station now is a sad statement of the time.

Steppenwolf.com

Zacherley, the "Cool Ghoul," was a '50s television movie prompter, a demonic figure who introduced monster movies to a New York area punctuated with ghastly sketches and creative comedic "break-ins" during the movies. John Zacherle was born in Pennsylvania, 1918 (the character he went on to create is spelled as "Zacherley"). He went on to make a splash with his song "Dinner with Drac" on the Parkway label, which ran to #6 on Billboard and garnered appearances on American Bandstand.  He put out a book, 3 lps, several singles, a few videos, even Transylvannian Passports. The personae of Zacherley lays itself out in an insinuated Charles Addams world of vampires, mummies, werewolves, monster monkeys, monster mothers-in-law and body snatchers.  He snorted with a characteristic condescendence while asking Igor for this or that assistance in his macabre machinations.  Zacherle was sardonic and, er, bitingly witty.  It was all in good fun, and to this day Zacherle plays to a small cult following.

I never watched Zacherley on TV.  My father did.  My father reveled in scary stories and in spooking his children.  He still tells with guilty amusement how he made my older brother, then a toddler, fly out of the bedroom as he tricked him into thinking there was a ghost in the room. Nightly he threatened us that while we slept the "liver snatcher" was going to sneak in and remove our livers through our noses using a pair of needle-nose pliers.

One day my father brought home a peculiar orange and black record on the Parkway label: Zacherley's Scary Tales: a collection of "scary" songs and stories, narratives in pop genres - surf, jazzy pop, doo-wop, pop rock, done with capable studio musicians, good arrangements and decent production.  All the songs are sung by the ghastly Zacherley, who's Transylvanian laugh punctuated the music in a way that paid homage to and laughed at the idea of B horror.  I had no idea who he was, but I took to it immediately.  

For the next few years my family quoted the songs from that record, and many an afternoon my brother and I "surfed" our beds to "Surf Board 109" as the mummy took yet another a dive: "first bath he's had since 10 BC."  It was a good pop record, right up there with The Archies, and that's high praise coming from an 8-year-old boy (remembering how he cut out an Archies 7" single from the back of a Super Sugar Crisp cereal box...)  To top it off, the first track on the second side had three parallel grooves, so depending upon where you dropped the needle you got different lyrics.  How cool is that?...

Last year it struck me to find out what other releases were available, and to try to find a less destructed copy of the lp than my brother and I had left my father. I searched eBay - the melting pot of all unusual and cul-de-sac culture - and found that the "Spook Along with Zacherly" lp had been rereleased on cd; relieving, as I'd seen the original lp at a record collector's show priced at more than $200!  I "bought-it-now," and successfully bid on the "Monster Mash" LP as well.  Sadly "Scary Tales itself has been less forthcoming.  Of the 3 releases I now have access to I still mostly listen to a cassette tape of our very crackly copy of "Scary Tales."  I'm sure that's pushed on by my inner 8-year-old's devilish grin, part of the frightening amount of happiness that tape brings me.

Zacherley.com





Kurt Gottschalk's Bottom Shelf  

The Beatles ruined pop. Before the Fab Four took over the western world, there was a suitable division of labor. You had singers, songwriters and instrumentalists. Nobody was expected to do it all. But in the epoch after John, Paul, George and Ringo, rock bands were expected to do it all and look good too.

In the course of seven short years, The Beatles led a wave that made teenybopper music into art and created an undying catalogue that would come to represent saccharine sentiments and overblown pop craft. Bad jazz singers and boring cover bands have made gallons of schlock from their songbook.

There have been good covers, of course, and tributes worth owning. Aki Takahashi has recorded great solo piano arrangements by the likes of John Cage, Frederic Rzewski, Carl Stone and Alvin Curran. Laibach bent Let it Be into an industrial dirge. Big City Orkestraw looped and mutated the boys on beatlerape. The Knitting Factory collected covers by Lydia Lunch, Eugene Chadbourne, Samm Bennett, King Missle and others on Downtown does The Beatles. Mike Westbrook's Off Abbey Road (Enja, 1990), with Phil Minton singing on half the tracks, has it's moments, and Sarah Vaughan's Songs of The Beatles is notable, if only for the chance to hear her warble "Come Together."

My collection, unfortunately, isn't limited to interpretations of merit. I have a regrettable tendency to horde the worst Beatles tributes I can find, which are generally available in the $2 bin.

Liverpool 1962 is an odd name for a 1990s mariachi record, but it leaves little doubt about the group's impetus. The 13-piece Mariachi Mexico de Pepa Villa make some frightfully lush detritus of the usual picks for sappy rendition ("Eleanor Rigby," "Yesterday," "Michelle," "The Long and Winding Road," - yup, McCartney comps all), and stretch out to include a couple from the solo years (Lennon's "Woman" and McCartney's "No More Lonely Nights"). It's remarkable how trumpets and strings can sound like a cheap synthesizer in the right hands. The title track is an original composition that evokes the working class English like Bugs Bunny playing Napoleon.

When I was a teenager, a distant and senile relative invited me over to listen to his record of The Canadian Brass playing The Beatles. Polite Midwestern punk that I was, I said I'd like to and promptly fled. In later years, I regretted passing up the surreal opportunity, so I was excited when I later found their 1998 All You Need is Love. It's livelier than the mariachi tribute, which makes it even harder to listen to. The liner notes point out that "no one knows exactly when pop music crosses from its world into the classical domain," suggesting that somehow the quintet have bridged the gap. Maybe I should have stuck with punk.

The hallmark for insipid interpretation is of course Muzak, so I was stoked to find an actual Muzak cd in the cut-out bin at Tower Records. Surprisingly, it seems closer to the spirit of The Beatles than the preceding titles, if only for the presence of electric guitars. Instrumentally Yours was released in 1999, around the time the corporation was trying to update its image and began switching from elevator music to feeds of actual songs. The musician credits shed little light on the culprits of this watered-down apple martini (at least to me), but they do point out that proceeds from the disc go to the Heart & Soul Foundation. Muzak probably should have been a grant recipient rather than a benefactor.

Not in need of a heart transplant is David Peel, who had a counterculture hit with Have a Marijuana in 1968 and worked hard as hell to weave gold from the short straw of having met, and apparently been complimented by, John Lennon. Bring Back the Beatles, from 1977, is a stoner declaration of, uh, what was I talking about? Tracks include covers of "With a Little Help from my Friends" and "Imagine," adapted to the three chords Peel knew, and no end up tracks written for the subjects of his adoration ("The Beatles Pledge of Allegiance," "The Wonderful World of Abbey Road," "Apple Beatle Foursome," "The Ballad of James Paul McCartney," "Keep John Lennon in America" and, of course "B-E-A-T-L-E-S"). This is your brain. This is your brain in a skillet.



continued...





Previous Bottom Shelf Articles:
Anthony Coleman's Bottom Shelf
Gary Lucas
Ron Anderson


The Squid's Ear presents
reviews about releases
sold at Squidco.com
written by
independent writers.

Squidco

Recent Selections @ Squidco:


John Cage:
Klang der Wandlungen
[3 CDs]
(Edition Rz)



Leap of
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Universe
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Elliott Sharp /
Mary Halvorson /
Marc Ribot:
ERR Guitar
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Mars Williams presents
(w/ Berman /
Lonberg-Holdm /
Baker /
Kessler /
Sandstrom /
Hunt):
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The Music of
Albert Ayler &
Songs of Christmas
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Eve Risser /
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& Santos Silva:
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Imaginary Numbers
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Niggenkemper /
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Sista Maj:
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